High Flyers: How Knight took flight to enter record books

Michael Knight

In the High Flyers spotlight this week is Michael Knight, managing director of Donite Plastics in Saintfield.

To take part in the High Flyers Q&A, get in touch via

What was your first job?

My first job was working on the Ards Penninsular with a guy who was developing a heat pump with some revolutionary new features. I had contacted him as part of my final year project at Ulster University, and following the completion of my HND in mechanical engineering, I became his first employee. We built and tested several prototype heat pumps, even installing one to heat the swimming pool of his friend, who was a financial backer.

To what do you attribute to your success?

I have had many years of hard work, as well as hard times but also some lucky breaks. However, my success is definitely attributed to the great team of people I have around me. With their help, Donite Plastics has a much better and defined structure for converting sales opportunities into actual orders.

How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?

I am actually quite introverted, although I try not to be as I really enjoy the company of extroverts. I believe we should grab every experience that life offers us and try everything at least once!

Who do you look up to in business?

My grandfather. He ran a wholesale shoe company in Belfast, Kane & Company, and was the most honest man I have ever known. His friend once asked him to place a bet on a horse – it was a long shot and my grandfather thought it had no chance of winning so had planned to give the guy his money back after the race was over. The horse did in fact win, so grandpa paid him his winnings straight out of his own pocket, which the man still doesn’t know.

How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

I try to give my employees as much independence as they are happy with. We also encourage everyone who is capable, to learn as many different jobs as they can, which increases their skills, as well as giving us more flexibility in our work patterns.

If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?

It’s time the politicians started slashing corporation tax. Between that and the special deal we have under the Brexit arrangements, Northern Ireland has the potential to become the most attractive part of the UK for new businesses to set up.

What website or app could you not do without?

A couple of years ago I gave up on my home made production control system, which was based on an access database. We now have a full web based MRP (ERP) system, which we could not do without. This enables us to receive live feedback of each process of every job on the shop floor.

What was the last book you read?

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It really did change the way I thought about how man has got to where he is today.

What car do you drive?

For work, towing caravans, boats and other practical stuff, I have a Double Cab Isuzu Blade. For fun I have a motorbike (or two). At the moment I have a 1000cc Yamaha MT10 and a 300 GASGAS trials bike.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

On April 25 2011, I set a new record for the longest distance hang gliding in Northern Ireland. The straight-line distance was 89.13km (55.38 miles) and the total distance flown was 203km. I took off from Slieve Gallion mountain in the Sperrins and landed near Carrickmacross in County Monaghan. The total airtime was three hours 16 mins and I reached a maximum height of 4688 feet above sea level.

What’s your greatest passion outside of work and family?

For most of the last 30 years, my greatest passion has been flying hang glider and paragliders. However I haven’t flown in the last two years, but have found my passion again for riding motorcycles.


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